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Harvard's Robotic Bees Generate High-Tech Buzz


Harvard's robotic bee

Harvard's RoboBee project will create robotic bees that fly autonomously and coordinate activities with other RoboBees.

Credit: Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory

Harvard University researchers have received a $10 million U.S. National Science Foundation grant to create a colony of flying robotic bees called RoboBees. The researchers say the grant will help drive innovation in ultra-low-power computing and electronic smart sensors and refine the algorithms used to control multiple, independent machines. The five-year RoboBee project also could lead to a better understanding of how to artificially mimic the collective behavior and intelligence of a bee colony as well as new methods for designing and building electronic surrogate nervous systems able to sense and adapt to changing environments and advance small-scale flying mechanical devices.

RoboBee researchers will create robotic bees that fly autonomously and coordinate activities between themselves and the hive. The researchers say the devices will lead to discoveries and practical innovations in other fields, including entomology, developmental biology, amorphous computing, and electrical engineering. The effort will build on previous microrobotic work at Harvard that resulted in the creation of a life-sized robotic fly.

The robotic bees will be made using a variety of technologies, including ultraviolet and optical sensors, and pollination and docking capabilities. Achieving autonomous flight will require compact, high-energy power sources and electronics, as well as distributed algorithms for multi-agent systems.

From Network World
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